‘They all drew to the fire, Mother in the big chair with Beth at her
feet, Meg and Amy perched on either arm of the chair, and Jo leaning on
the back, where no one would see any sign of emotion if the letter
should happen to be touching. Very few letters were written in those
hard times that were not touching, especially those which fathers sent
home. In this one little was said of the hardships endured, the dangers
faced, or the homesickness conquered; it was a cheerful, hopeful letter,
full of lively descriptions of camp life, marches, and military news;
and only at the end did the writer’s heart overflow with fatherly love
and longing for the little girls at home.
“Give them all of my dear love and a kiss. Tell them I think of them by
day, pray for them by night, and find my best comfort in their affection
at all times. A year seems very long to wait before I see them, but
remind them that while we wait we may all work, so that these hard days
need not be wasted. I know they will remember all I said to them, fight
their bosom enemies bravely, and conquer themselves so beautifully that
when I come back to them I may be fonder and prouder than ever of my
“ Christmas won’t be Christmas
without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
“It’s so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old
“I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things,
and other girls nothing at all,” added little Amy, with an injured
“We’ve got Father and Mother, and each other anyhow,” said Beth
contentedly, from her corner.
The four young faces on which the firelight shone brightened at the
cheerful words, but darkened again as Jo said sadly,—
“We haven’t got father, and shall
not have him for a long time.” She didn’t say “perhaps never,” but each
silently added it, thinking of father far away, where the fighting was.
Nobody spoke for a minute; then Meg said in an altered tone,—
“You know the reason Mother proposed not having any presents this
Christmas, was because it’s going to be a hard winter for everyone; and
she thinks we ought not to spend money for pleasure, when our men are
suffering so in the army. We can’t do much, but we can make our little
sacrifices, and ought to do it gladly. But I am afraid I don’t;” and Meg
shook her head, as she thought regretfully of all the pretty things she
“But I don’t think the little we should spend would do any good. We’ve
each got a dollar, and the army wouldn’t be much helped by our giving
that. I agree not to expect anything from mother or you, but I do want
to buy Undine and Sintram for myself; I’ve wanted it so long,” said Jo,
who was a bookworm.
“I planned to spend mine in new music,” said Beth, with a little sigh,
which no one heard but the hearth-brush and kettle- holder.
“I shall get a nice box of Faber’s drawing pencils; I really need them,”
said Amy, decidedly.
“Mother didn’t say anything about our money, and she won’t wish us to
give up everything. Let’s each buy what we want, and have a little fun;
I’m sure we work hard enough to earn it,” cried Jo, examining the heels
of her shoes in a gentlemanly manner.
“I know I do,—teaching those tiresome children nearly all day, when I’m
longing to enjoy myself at home,” began Meg, in the complaining tone
“You don’t have half such a hard time as I do,” said Jo. “How would you
like to be shut up for hours with a nervous, fussy old lady, who keeps
you trotting, is never satisfied, and worries you till you’re ready to
fly out of the window or cry?”
“It’s naughty to fret,—but I do think washing dishes and keeping things
tidy is the worst work in the world. It makes me cross, and my hands get
so stiff, I can’t practice well at all.” And Beth looked at her rough
hands with a sigh that any one could hear that time.
“I don’t believe any of you suffer as I do,” cried Amy, “for you don’t
have to go to school with impertinent girls, who plague you if you don’t
know your lessons, and laugh at your dresses, and label your father if
he isn’t rich, and insult you when your nose isn’t nice.”
“If you mean libel, I’d say so, and not talk about labels, as if Papa
was a pickle-bottle,” advised Jo, laughing.
“I know what I mean, and you needn’t be ‘statirical’ about it. It’s
proper to use good words, and improve your vocabilary,” returned Amy,
“Don’t peck at one another, children. Don’t you wish we had the money
Papa lost when we were little, Jo? Dear me! How happy and good we’d be,
if we had no worries!” said Meg, who could remember better times.
“You said the other day you thought we were a deal happier than the King
children, for they were fighting and fretting all the time, in spite of
“So I did, Beth. Well, I think we are. For though we do have to work, we
make fun of ourselves, and are a pretty jolly set, as Jo would say.”